An Age of Science - America in the Feynman Era

Chapter 5: of Lives and Choices
of Lives and Choices

Another important political issue of 1967 was regarding the debate on abortion. Since the early 60s, the national pro-choice movement had been on the rise, with women’s rights groups pushing for the liberalisation of the harsh laws in place and often even operating underground clinics, leaving many in peril as, in the pursuit of illegal abortions, the women endangered their own lives.

This movement was gaining great strength, despite the fierce opposition of the pro-life movements, the most powerful of which emerged from no other place than the Catholic Church, whose groups campaigned fiercely towards keeping any liberalisation attempts at bay for fear it would be used with too much leniency and effectively become a contraceptive method.

On April 25, 1967, the State of Colorado made History by passing the first legislation decriminalising abortion in the United States, breaking the first window in that pro-life, pro-choice war; this law extended the conditions for abortion from endangering the mother’s life to include threats to the woman’s physical and mental health, birth defects of the child or cases of rape or incest, while many of those against the law accused it of being easily taken advantage of by those who did not meet the criteria but could pose as such. This inspired many pro-choice groups across the United States to seek action from their own legislatures to see similar measures passed.

North Carolina would become the second State to enact such laws, with very similar wording to that of the Colorado one; surprisingly, there was no great uproar around this law, possibly due to the low numbers of Catholics in the State, having the lowest percentage of any State at the time; this only encouraged pro-choice groups to pursue such policies.

The next battleground was none other than the State of California; the Catholic Church was a more powerful influence there, but so were the women rights’ and progressive groups, who, together with some Protestant leaders among the Republicans even, were able to pass a similar law to those of Colorado and North Carolina, while lacking the clause for birth defects.

The extraordinary fact of the Californian Therapeutic Abortion Act, however, was California’s statutory definition of “mental health” that left much to the interpretation. Many feared this would allow for private hospitals to be liberal in what they deemed “healthy” and allow abortions for that clause with ease, while the more law-abiding and conservative public hospitals would not grant them, thereby creating a socio-economic distinction on abortion access.

After passing the test of the Legislature, the procedure demanded that Governor Feynman sign in into law or instead send it back for review by means of vetoing it, an action that would have jeopardised its future, as a supermajority would have been required to see it through.

Feynman’s position on the matter was between being pro-choice and, more sincerely, not caring too much about the matter personally. He couldn’t say he had never thought about the theme, especially as, a decade earlier, he had been conned into paying for a non-existing but supposedly illegal abortion for a former girlfriend, who had already taken his Albert Einstein Award gold medal as a prize. He remembered how it hadn’t been exactly a small sum he had had to pay for the fictional procedure, which made him sympathise with the women seeking its liberalisation and public health status.

In the end, considering his approval was following what seemed to be a rising trend and the will of the Legislature, and that going against all this, resisting the decriminalisation, made him a hypocrite, Feynman would sign the act into law, an action that was later validated in the famous Roe vs. Wade that saw such laxation of the abortion laws become national policy.

The law’s ultimate effects were those feared by its rivals – its mental health provisions were liberally interpreted by any hospital with a monetary incentive to do so and so did many public hospitals, as the policy became for leniency in allowing such operations to carry on. Around 200,000 legal abortions were carried out the following year, a substantial rise from the 518 legal abortions carried before the law was passed.

Despite this, the popularity of Governor Feynman wasn’t quite affected or helped by this; he had followed protocol and approved an already popular, if controversial, measure that was reigning in the Zeitgeist of America. His seemingly divestment from the matter would make it of very little relevance towards the public opinion of his position. While dealing with this question, more important matters concerned Feynman.
Out of curiosity, how had California solved similar funding crunches before this?


Sorry, forgot to answer this. Well, since the Depression, California had mostly had politics that were usually to the more radical side of the New Deal, with a great inspiration in progressive and socialist policies. And even during the Reagan governorship, taxes were raised severely (also in record levels), so the Feynman solution isn't all that different from the Reagan one, with the exception of the part on colleges.
Chapter 6: the Summer of Love
the Summer of Love

The next challenge set for the Californian Governor would be on fulfilling his campaign of finding a peaceful solution to the riots that tore Californian and, at a national level, American society apart, as the counterculture and civil rights movements became stronger and more capable of exerting pressure over traditional society.

The summer of 1967 would be a special time in regards to this. Both the ‘long, hot summer’ of civil rights and the ‘summer of love’ of the hippie culture would happen through the nation, bringing with them an both an upheaval and a backlash as the various sects of increasingly polarised American society became increasingly more aggressive towards one another.

Beginning in June, great riots would erupt throughout the nation, from Atlanta to Boston, from Buffalo to Tampa. The bloodiest events in that summer were in Newark and then in Detroit, a week apart from each other, as the African American communities, wearied with the disenfranchisement and violence directed towards them, not just in the old South, but really through the entire country, rose up and rioted against the injustices they suffered. In New Jersey the National Guard had had to be called, arresting thousands and adding to the body count already stacked up in the fighting between civilians and police. Detroit, however, would prove to be the bloodiest battle, with Governor of Michigan, Republican George Romney, sending in the National Guard, that yet failed to contain the situation until the President of the United States, after much dithering and pressures from both sides, felt compelled to send federal military forces in to crush the rioters. Tanks and soldiers manned with machine guns stood against the African American rioters, beating them to submission, images being broadcasted of the city burning, with tanks and machine guns fighting on the streets, as Americans tried to grip this wasn't some faraway nation, but their own country. The riot spread and two dozen cities would rise up alongside Detroit. In that city alone, more than 7,200 people were arrested.

In California, the heat had already begun even before Summer came. On May 2, two dozen armed members of the Black Panthers Party stormed into the California State Capitol while it was in session, causing an uproar throughout the nation. Feynman quickly became involved in the case to the highest degree as he was found hosting a group of eighth-graders at the Capitol Lawn, enthusiastically going about explaining them a concept of Physics and making them laugh in the process, as he was keen to do. Suddenly, they found themselves amidst a major security hazard as armed men stormed the Capitol.

Despite his security’s fierce push to take him inside for safety, Governor Feynman insisted on greeting the armed men who could not be disarmed by the security forces since they were not technically breaking any laws, having no concealed weapons on them. Although tightly guarded by his security, the Governor shook hands with some of the Black Panthers members and showed himself available to listen to their demands and answer them cordially. Although he couldn’t dissuade them from laying down their weapons, the protest didn’t harm anyone and the protesters left the building, if not quietly, at least feeling somewhat victorious. Although there were mixed reactions, the testament of his courage and the idea of him being there protecting the schoolchildren gave Feynman a boost of popularity as the true days of the Summer began.

The Summer of Love was, regardless of its name, a year-long event that dominated San Francisco through 1967, and spread throughout the world. It was the apogee of the hippie culture, with 100,000 adepts of the movement coming together in the neighbourhood of Haight-Ashbury. A Council had been organised to assist what was the unsustainable number of people going into the area, the Council of the Summer of Love, manned by local activitists who propped up a Free Store and a Free Clinic to assist the visitors, but still lacking many resources to provide adequate service to the massive incoming crowds.

It was a horde of drug-consuming, government-antagonising, anti-consumerist left-wing radicals, whose previous lesser activities had already caused the conservative backlash that had seen men as Goldwater or Reagan nearly elected. Now that a massive, unmanageable mass had effectively taken over a neighbourhood of San Francisco, this ‘hippie threat’ had become a reality in the minds of many. And there were similar bouts around the world. In Los Angeles alone 4000 people had massed by late April, in Monterey 60,000 people had gathered for the pop festival hosted there. In Manhattan, it was predicted 50,000 hippies would enter the city for the summer, and there were also festivals promoted through England.

In essence, it was a very large event that had turned the already antagonised college students into fully despised hippies, on the eyes of the conservative movement that is. The number of young people associating themselves to the movement grew greatly over the summer, confirming the conservative fears that spread like wildfire in the American household. Surprisingly, the movement, while being extremely pacifist and openly outspoken against the Vietnam War and militarism in general, attracted many military personnel from nearby bases, who would attend the festival in great numbers.

The counter-culture movement concerned those who were, to say the least, ingrained with the current culture, the mainstream politicians and the common citizens who saw their movement as foreign and as against the patriotic values they embraced. Although not as persecuting as the McCarthyites had been, there were many who frowned on the political behaviour they deemed ‘un-American’.

It was around that particular controversy that Governor Feynman was dragged in to the problems surrounding the Summer of Love. A liberal Governor with ties to the student community, the civil rights movement and a penchant to speak for them, he was quite popular among the hippie community, considering their general distaste for government. This admiration made him suspicious to the growing conservative motherland, whose ranks had not been among his voters last fall.

Those tensions boiled over when scandal appeared – Governor Feynman’s signature was found among that of other known American intellectuals and artists of world renown endorsing an anti-war advertisement by the radical British political activist Margaret Gardiner in The Times.

They had been changing correspondence since early May, at which point Feynman, who until then although attentive to reportages was not fully aware of the Vietnam War developments, began researching and asking questions on the matter. His interest peaked with the contact with Gardiner, he spent a great part of his off-duty times in late spring and early summer studying the war thoroughly, reading many books on the subject and exchanging correspondence with authors and journalists on the matter.

Although most assumed Feynman would be mildly against the war, as proper of his stand in politics, his standing with the radical wing was a surprise that, combined with the accusations of cooperation with the hippies, made Feynman an attractive scandal for the media.

Although at first he resisted answering the questions being posed by the media, making him seem as a communist sympathiser and a pacifist, by the end of August he spoke before the press in Sacramento, as the exacerbation of drug usage among the festival goers and the deaths and violence associated with it were marking the beginning of the end for the Summer of Love.

“There has been a lot of talk the last few weeks about where it is I stand on the war being fought on Vietnam. It is my fault. I did sign the articles by Ms. Gardiner in The Times, where she explained her position, backed by myself and other prominent Americans. I endorsed them then and I endorse them now.

That is not to say my position hasn’t changed. When I first received a letter from Ms. Gardiner asking me to endorse her project, I must confess that, like many of Americans, I was not fully aware of what is happening in Vietnam. I knew there is a war. I knew that young Americans, students of mine, sons of friends and family, were going there to fight. I knew some people were very against the idea of sending our young people there to fight. And I knew that there was no end in sight for this war.

That is not enough. As a scientist, as a professor I can tell you that, if one of my students defended a theory with only that knowledge, I would fail him and discredit him. I thought of answering Ms. Gardiner in that manner but, as a citizen and as a Governor, I found it my duty to be informed and take a stand on a position that matters so much, since it deals with the lives of our youth.

Thankfully, I found available to me the finest resources to make my research. There were many documents that enlightened my ignorant spirit around the nuances of the war and, more importantly, there were many kind and candid people who dared to help me in this quest. Some in California, some in Washington and I even had the pleasure of speaking with men stationed in Saigon.

It was after my research that I decided to sign the letter Ms. Gardiner meant to publish. And I hope I can read it out loud so that it is clear that I endorse this view and no other.

«We, citizens of the United States, who are deeply concerned over the war in Vietnam, wish to put it on record that we do not subscribe to the official view of our country and of yours, that Hanoi alone blocks the path to negotiations. On the contrary, there is considerable evidence which has been presented to our Government but which has never been answered by them, to show that escalation of the war by the United States has repeatedly destroyed the possibilities for negotiation.

We assure you that any expression of your horror of this shameful war – a war which is destroying those very values it claims to uphold – ought not to be regarded as anti-American but, rather, as support for that American which we love and of which we are proud. »

It is my belief that, in the strategy employed by our military, the possibilities for peace, which should be paramount, have been set aside for military convenience. As Americans, it is our duty to ensure that our nation pursues the establishment of peace, order and liberty in the world as ends to wage war upon. Otherwise, we are belligerent and betraying the very same qualities that have our families support our nation.

But, above all, it is my belief that to question the course of these actions and to ask for a strategy that has a peaceful end in sight for the war is not, as some of our more belligerent citizens claim, against the principles of the United States, but in their favour and that to uphold a will towards resolution is not, as they claim, anti-American, but that the very opposite is true and that the blind belligerency those citizens proclaim goes against the values we hold dearest.

It is in the best interests of America and of our fighting youth that a dialogue is kept open with Hanoi so that peace may be established as soon as possible and to have them return with the laurels of victory. It is more important yet to keep a dialogue open in America, and that no citizen is kept from talking or accused of treason when giving his constitutionally-protected opinion on the course our country should take.

Thank you.”

The speech was cordial but strong on its stand. While many disagreed with his approach, and continued to accuse him of treasonous activity, the fact was that the majority of Californians and Americans was satisfied with the clearing up of what was meant by the articles.

At that point, the scales were changing and already a great quantity of Americans believed that it was a mistake to remain involved in Vietnam. To them, the message of Feynman did no offence and actually helped strengthen their views. To those who still believed in the war, the vast majority could find solace in the cordial notes of the approach, while those less willing to do so, the true hawks, were already unfriendly to Feynman and his more liberal agenda.

Ultimately, the Summer of Love was a tiring but fruitful affair for Feynman whom, unbeknownst to him, had given his fist steps unto national and international politics by becoming a faint but nonetheless beacon for debate around the Vietnam War question.
Chapter 7: Back to School
Back to School

With Fall came the school year too, and many of the eventful things of the long, hot summer of 1967 faded away with them. The Summer of Love, already decaying by the end of summer due to the problems associated with the drug consumption by the participants and the bands, with the police arresting some prominent members, officially ended on October 6, with the Death of the Hippie parade in which a mock funeral was held marking the death of the counter-culture.

Most festival-goers were leaving, some to plant crops, others to resume their studies or to simply get a job. Indeed, the school year was beginning throughout America and none was more excited around it than the Governor, Richard Feynman.

This was because, despite everything that had surrounded his campaign and his governorship so far, Feynman’s goal in government was to improve the education provided to the Californian children, with a special focus on improving the quality of their curriculum. While dealing with the various crisis that had erupted through the year, this goal had been ever-present in the works of the Governor whom, together with his Superintendent of Public Instruction, Wilson Riles, had accomplished a revamp of the textbook material provided for the students in Californian schools.

Feynman gave various press conferences surrounding the matter, showing devotion and excitement at the new choices being made, and explaining how the focus of the new scientific material was on explaining the usefulness of the theory being learned and encouraging personal experimentation and autonomous study.

The curriculum was validated and praised by several educators around the country, and commissions were called on a number of States to study the possibility of copying what was already being dubbed ‘the Feynman model’ for their own state education. However, and despite the great reception by the specialists in the field, Feynman was quite disappointed to find only meagre interest on the part of the press to hear him talk about textbooks and other matters of the kind.

Although disappointed by the lack of enthusiasm about the program, Feynman was content to see it being fulfilled, and vowed to continue his work promoting better educational policies in the State of California. He was enthused with having the policies being expanded to other states as well, and would always be available to receive visitors hoping to discuss the ideas they had for their own states.
Chapter 8: the Year in Review
the Year in Review

At long last, as the relatively calm Christmas season passed, with Governor Feynman celebrating his first season in Sacramento with a joyous occasion for both family and friends, and of course the press, who badgered him to give a Christmas message to the people of California.

It was during that celebration that First Lady Gweneth Feynman, who had so far been an elegant but discreet figure in the State, close to the city people in her daily errands, who would sometimes recognize her, had the opportunity to present her first project as First Lady, the formation of an official Christmas choral group, composed by deprivileged Californian women whose concerts would serve to help several charities and social programs. Donations peaked in the days after their performance on state television accompanying the Governor’s speech.

1967 had proven to be a troublesome year. From having to handle the deficit issue in California as soon as he arrived to office, unexperienced in politics and budgets, to having received the issue of abortion to be executed on the State of California and then, during the summer, having had to dealt with both an increase of racial tensions and with the hippie festivals that had flooded in to California.

Feynman had performed admirably well through those challenges. Although it would have been an impossible expectation to raise the taxes to sustain the budget without losing some popularity, he managed to gain it back and with interest by his performance on the other issues of the year.

By aligning himself with a liberal line, he managed to thwart the general anger of the various protesters while indulging in talks of both moderation and cooperation for prosperity, that interested the families of the State that, political affections aside, preferred order and stability to any kind of volatile environment.
Two short chapters (there's not much to say here, but it's nonetheless important for them to be here), to close up the first year of Feynman's governorship. I put them together since they're so short, as time goes on, these chapters will be longer, as things intensify (just think of the years ahead historically and add the ability of Feynman to be a trouble maker)
Feynman’s position on the matter was between being pro-choice and, more sincerely, not caring too much about the matter personally. He couldn’t say he had never thought about the theme, especially as, a decade earlier, he had been conned into paying for a non-existing but supposedly illegal abortion for a former girlfriend, who had already taken his Albert Einstein Award gold medal as a prize. He remembered how it hadn’t been exactly a small sum he had had to pay for the fictional procedure, which made him sympathise with the women seeking its liberalisation and public health status.

Huh! I never knew that story. Fascinating.

Sorry, forgot to answer this. Well, since the Depression, California had mostly had politics that were usually to the more radical side of the New Deal, with a great inspiration in progressive and socialist policies. And even during the Reagan governorship, taxes were raised severely (also in record levels), so the Feynman solution isn't all that different from the Reagan one, with the exception of the part on colleges.

That really brings home how much US politics has changed. And makes me wonder how important Raegan's governorship of California was in transforming the US.

Huh! I never knew that story. Fascinating.

That really brings home how much US politics has changed. And makes me wonder how important Raegan's governorship of California was in transforming the US.


Yeah, I've been digging into Feynman's biography to try to find even the slighest bits of information on what his feelings might have been regarding certain issues. I don't want to just make him a Mary Sue-esque liberal figure (and he won't be, having some controversial and outright unpleasant opinions on some matters).

And yeah, Reagan was undoubtedly important in arranging the current political party system - namely, the conservative Republicans vs liberal Democrats, a division that wasn't as clear-cut until his arrival, with liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats (some of which would exist beyond his era, but who would become the minority and eventually be marginalised). Now, this shift was already happening, namely with characters such as Goldwater or Nixon, but even then it wasn't nearly as clear-cut as Reagan would make it - mostly because neither of those had either the power or the ambition to actually disposess their intra-party rivals, not in the way Reagan did - as said during the campaign, his first struggle was not so much against the Democrat candidate, but against the liberal faction of the Republicans, making efforts to silence them, put them in line and eventually ostracise them from the party, replaced by his own faction. Which also explains why Republicans are usually so pro-Reagan: the generation in power is descendend from those empowered by Reagan, replacing their more liberal antecessors. Briefly, and not to get into current politics (please don't drag it here), a similar phenomenon could be observed nowadays, if one were to compile changes in Congresspeople, in particular in States like Texas (but also, I think it was, Ohio).

That's something I hope to explore: making the Republican vs Democrat front stand on another facet of political struggle. Which can get very interesting results.
Part II: The Tragic Year of 1968 - Chapter 1: a Typhoon over Vietnam

1. a Typhoon over Vietnam

January 1968 was a month in which many things brewed over, ready to explode over the year. One of the most important, that would define the future of American politics, was the beginning of the Tet offensive in Vietnam, a campaign of surprise attacks against the beating hearts of the civil and military commands of South Vietnam, meant on crippling the latter’s war effort once and for all.

It was a countrywide offensive, the largest one seen in the war so far, as the Viet Cong targeted more than 100 towns and cities, including the vast majority of regional capitals, autonomous cities, and of course, the great prize, Saigon, the shining capital of South Vietnam, where the American embassy was stationed, a vital link between the South Vietnamese government and their American patrons. More than 80 thousand soldiers marched for this operation, a bold scheme that caught the Americans unprepared, dealing a crushing morale blow and causing many casualties.

Attempts at the home media to showcase the aftermath of the operation as an American victory weren’t successful; the troops had held and the North Vietnamese had lost many men, that much was true, but it was also apparent that this had been costly and that the enemy was more than capable of striking and losing men that were replenished with new recruits. This confirmed the growing suspicion among many Americans that, unlike what the Pentagon continued to state, the war wasn’t being won.

This marked a great loss for the Johnson administration, that had so far been very keen of turning the American public towards the war effort. Now that the stamina was beginning to fail, their popularity was beginning to crumble. When the final phase of the operation met its end in March, after two bloody months full of massacres and scandals, the President at last had to admit that the war simply could not be won and reluctantly began talks to start the peace process, believing in the possibility of, at the very least, an honourable withdrawal that would allow the country to keep its dignity intact.

It seems to have been too little, too late, however as, being hit by this offensive in the early days of the primaries, the lack of popularity of LBJ’s policy in Vietnam reared its ugly head in hurting the President deeply in the primaries, an extraordinarily bad omen, to say the least, with Johnson barely winning in New Hampshire against the anti-war campaign of Eugene McCarthy. Ultimately, the President had to face the truth – there would be no victory for him come November and, for the sake of keeping his legacy intact, he resigned himself to announce he would not be seeking reelection, opening the field to other Democrats biding for the White House.

This could prove to be an interesting campaign indeed.
This is getting interesting--looking forward to seeing how it come out. I have a hard time writing a pure political timeline--impressed, I am!
This is getting interesting--looking forward to seeing how it come out. I have a hard time writing a pure political timeline--impressed, I am!

I really appreciate the compliment, this is a new experience for me too, hopefully it works well enough, I'm doing a whole lot of research around each issue, with it not always being easy to find.

And we have arrived at 1968, a year that needs no introduction. Among other things, much of this part will deal with the presidential election of this year, our first presidential election in the TL and one of the most interesting ones in US history.

So buckle up
Chapter 2: Darkness over the Mountaintop
2. Darkness over the Mountaintop

As the President announced he wouldn’t be seeking re-election, another very influential American, on the other side of the wiretapping performed by the secret services, was going around Memphis, Tennessee, in support of African American workers on strike for the cause of better wages. That man was Reverend Martin Luther King Jr, one of the most important leaders of the Civil Rights movement, winner of a Nobel Peace Prize and a Christian leader of the African American community of the United States, a pillar of their struggle for equal rights.

On April 3, Martin Luther King delivered what would be his last speech, unwittingly prophesising his own demise, but leaving a message of hope for his brothers-in-arms to carry on his legacy.

“Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. So I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

The following day, while preparing for a new rally in his hotel, Martin Luther King was shot by an escaped prisoner with ties to white supremacist movements, dying one hour later of his injury. His autopsy showed that, for a man of his age, his heart was quite weakened, possibly due to the stress of having led, for a full thirteen years, the civil rights movement in America. He had sacrificed his health and, ultimately, his life, for a grand ideal that now others had to carry for themselves.

To say his death sent shockwaves across the United States would be an understatement. Riots sparked through the cities of the nation, as the African American communities showed their outrage at the grave injustice carried against them and their beloved leader, in a fury that was known as the “Holy Week Uprising”.

In Washington DC, mounted machine guns were assembled on the Capitol steps, and Army forces protected the White House, which was only two blocks away from the furthest advances of the rioting. Curfew was imposed and the city went through the greatest military occupation in an American city since the Civil War. Thousands of buildings were burned, the economy turned to shambles and entire neighbourhoods became ruins in a matter of days. In Chicago, orders were given to shoot to kill or maim and for the use of tear gas on the rioters. In Baltimore, thousands were arrested, while lesser numbers were found in other cities, but still rioting and destruction occurred in many African American communities.

The exceptions were, almost always, in the cities where the authorities present had the common wisdom to, rather than call the militias to try and crush the rather justifiable cries for justice of their own people, to put themselves forward and speak of unity and peace, in the values treasured by the good Reverend. The Mayor of Boston, Kevin White, spoke before a crowd at a concert happening at the night of the assassination, speaking of peace and unity, and the city was calm through the periods of great unrest. In New York City, Mayor John Lindsay went to Harlem and said he regretted the death and that he was working towards ending poverty; he is credited with preventing escalation from low-key disturbances in the city. In Indianapolis, it was Senator and Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy who spoke towards the crowd, informing them of what had happened, with an appeal to reflection and peace in the land.

“What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love, and wisdom, and compassion toward one another; and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.”

Drawing from personal experience with the death of his brother, President John F. Kennedy, the Senator was able to harness the sympathy of the crowd; in Indianapolis there would be no riots during those difficult days, and many credit that accomplishment to the words and courage of the Senator, who stood to speak when most preferred to fight.

In California, there was some fear in the first day that the Watt riots might be repeated, with a great fervour even, as the memory of those days was still fresh in the minds of many Californians. Tensions ran high among many communities, among white men and black alike, as enemies were seen in all shadows. All were expecting the worst, and some were clinging to their weapons, ready to battle. It was then that, however, the Governor himself, Richard Feynman, came to the Watts neighbourhood to speak with the African community there about the events transpiring the day before.

“Ladies and gentlemen,

It will be no news to you to know that, yesterday, a very sad thing happened to all of those among us who work for peace in our country and all over the world. Martin Luther King was killed in Memphis, Tennessee.

It is understandable that you may feel wrath at this. It is very understandable that you feel a great injustice was committed, because it was. No good citizen, who loves peace and justice above all other things, can feel anything other than anguish at the killing of such a tremendous man as Dr King, who dedicated his life to the service of others and the improvement of our nation. We as a country must now mourn one of the great heroes of our days.

It is understandable that many of you may feel unsafe. It is understandable that many of you may feel unloved and hated today, for this vicious murder was not committed against one man, but against an idea, against a people who that great man worked his whole life to represent and see advance. The bullet wasn’t sent against one single man, but against millions of citizens of these United States.

But I ask that none of you think that you are alone in your grief, and in feeling attacked. The hand that shot Dr King also shot against all Americans that believe and work for a better nation in which the bitter divisions of the past are erased and the great legacy we have instilled as our core value – that all men are created equal – is at last fulfilled.

With those of you filled with bitterness, anger and desire for revenge – before acting on any of those feelings, I ask you to consider something first. We are at a crossroads of History. This coward attack, made from dark shadows, was made yesterday and not before because, at very last, the wise words of Dr King were making an effect and rocking our nation. His efforts show themselves each passing year, and each day that comes is a day in which the unlawful separation of the white and black races is erased and a true nation of equals emerges. A nation Dr King worked to build. A nation he would be proud to belong to. These cowards attacked because they are seeing themselves being defeated, and their lost cause head to the dustbins of History, where it belongs.

Those of us who remember the war remember the joy of seeing the tide turn and the forces of evil and oppression crushed under the strength of free peoples. That was thanks to the efforts of our soldiers and our working men, who gave us the strength to win. Thanks to the efforts of Dr King and many of his supporters, the movement of equality has the strength to win as well. The day of Victory will come. In his last speech, Dr King said as much ‘I’ve seen the promised land. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop’.

I can’t promise you the hardships of generations will be erased in a brushstroke. Nothing can manage as much. But I can promise you that the work of Dr King will bear fruits yet to come, and that his name and his life shall never be forgotten or less cherished by the generations that come and love freedom as we do ourselves. I hope to get there with you, and celebrate it by your side.

If the legacy of Dr King is to endure and to be victorious, we must be the first ones to uphold it. I ask you to reflect on what the good reverend would have you do today, in his homage. I believe he would tell you to continue your fight in his name, the fight to build a better nation, a nation in which violence and hatred are replaced with compassion and love.

I found a saying of Martin Luther King I would like to share with you today, that may help in your reflections. It says ‘Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. The chain reaction of evil – Hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars – must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation’. Perhaps it was my love for mathematics, but I found this very beautiful. I hope you can see beauty and wisdom in it too, for those were the two qualities we shall miss the most in the great mind that was Dr King’s.

He was a man with a mission he put on himself – to help build a better world. It falls to us, now, to decide on whether to carry on his mission and fulfil it, or betray it using the reverend’s good name as justification for violence and terror.

I trust my fellow citizens to make the right decision.”

After a moment of silence, in respect towards Martin Luther King, a thunderous applause was heard. In the days following, the tensions in Los Angeles fell sharply as no disturbances of note were felt through the city, and peace reigned as was uncommon through American cities during those weeks. Many credit Feynman for this, for having made the effort to come himself and speak towards peace and unity.

Within the week, the President would sign into law the Civil Rights Act of 1968, which would have a tremendous impact in crushing the state-sponsored segregation and discrimination many African Americans dealt with daily. This bill he championed would make him a hero for the community, and a pariah for the Southern whites who, until them, had been loyally Democratic, under the Solid South. Trouble brewed as the old guard Democrats, of Southern stock, and the Republicans as well, noticed that old loyalties were falling apart in old Dixie. This change would deepen as to greatly change the entirety of American politics.
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I apologise for being a bit late delivering this chapter, this has been a rough weekend.

In any case, this chapter is... rather topical. I don't particularly like to do this, but the elephant in the room really can't be ignored. I hope this doesn't bring trouble for myself or the TL, it's not my fault that history rhymes ever so often, and the fact is this episode will be very important to explain the events of this part of the TL, and to further develop its events, so I couldn't skip it, even if I wanted to. And I wouldn't want to. Writing about US politics, 1968, and ignore the death of Dr. King and the protests that followed it would be ridiculous. If one takes this message and uses it to reflect on more current events, great, that's both the point of History and literature, to make us reflect on the present and the future. (Fortunately, this story is quite discreet and has a small following, all of rather nice folks, so I can't imagine this causing drama)

I would recommend to everyone to go and listen to RFK's speech on the death of MLK, if you haven't ever heard it before. This has been my prime source of inspiration to write this small speech by Feynman and is, also, a speech I've heard on repeat countless times and that I personally hold as one of my inspirations when I have to do public speeches. I lack the talents and the passion of RFK, but I hope I did a good enough homage. And, as a small tease to my readers, I'll note that, obviously, this won't be the last time this character will be appearing in our story.
This is a great timeline, loving it.

we're alive, so don't envy his talents because you can improve them still, unlike him.

Thanks for the kind words. One can only hope.

I think Kevin White was the mayor of Boston, not Chicago--Chicago's mayor was Richard Daley...

Thanks, it was a silly mistake that now has been fixed.

Nicely done, and thanks for the link as well.

Thanks, that tells me I should probably start linking these sort of things, since it can be very useful for people learning about History through narrative.